The Supreme Court Saves An Ethics Principle

Mayor Quimby is honest about being corrupt. Isn't that good enough?

Rescuing the states’ power to insist on more ethical conduct from their elected legislators, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that there was no Constitutional prohibition on state rules against legislators voting on issues in which they have a private, personal interests.

The unanimous decision upheld a Nevada ethics law that governs when lawmakers recuse themselves from voting on official business because they might have conflicts of interest. The challenge to the  law came from Michael Carrigan, a conflicted city council member from the Sparks, Nev., who was reprimanded by the state ethics commission after he voted  on a casino proposal though his campaign manager had been hired as a consultant to the project.

The law prohibits a public official from voting on an issue when a “reasonable person” would suspect a conflict because of financial ties or the interest of a spouse or family member. This is the essence of “the appearance of impropriety.” It also includes “any other commitment or relationship that is substantially similar” to those spelled out.  Carrigan had argued that the Nevada’s law was overly broad and that he should be able to vote on the project, so long as he disclosed his relationship with the consultant.

Ah, disclosure! Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Staff and Administrators of Summerlin Hospital (Las Vegas)


Lincoln and Cecilia Rogers wanted to treat their newborn's illness their own way...

The angry parents of a newborn have sparked protests against Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, by revealing that their baby was kept at the hospital against their will after a nurse contacted social services for what they describe as an “unjustified reason.”


The “unjustified reason” was that Lincoln and Cecilia Rogers wanted to take baby Lilia home and treat her jaundice “the natural way,” according to her mother. Whenever hospital staff hears a parent say that the family wants to eschew hospital treatment of a child’s serious health problem “the natural way’—or, for that matter, “the supernatural way”, as in “we’re going to put it in God’s hands,” a child’s life is in danger. This is the time for a hospital to stop thinking about legal issues (“Make sure they sign a waiver and consent form!”) or public controversy, and to think about the endangered welfare of the child. Continue reading

Sharron Angle, Responsible Leadership, and the Unforgivable

It all comes down to trust.

There are some things candidates for office do or say that render them permanently untrustworthy, and no apologies, however well-crafted and sincere, can change it. That is because there are some ethical boundaries a trustworthy individual literally will never cross. For example, Richard Blumenthal’s repeated claims that he was a Vietnam combat veteran fall below the minimum level of integrity, respect and honesty required for trustworthiness. Former Senator John Edwards has lied so often in public and private that no reasonable person should trust him to hold a leadership position.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party darling who will be opposing Sen. Harry Reid for the Nevada Senate seat in November, also falls beneath that minimum level. This is not because of her hard, hard right positions advocating the abolishment of government-run Social Security, Medicare and the Department of Education. Those are legitimate topics for debate. But a recent interview with conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson has come to light in which Angle, then the longest of shots to win the Nevada Republican primary, said this: Continue reading

Chicken Suit Ethics

Ahh—perhaps this is how we lose our freedoms: absurdity. It’s damn hard to get indignant when you’re laughing.

Nevada has banned the wearing of chicken suits at polling places, a clear infringement of political speech. Republicans were alarmed because the front-runner in their June primary to decide who will challenge the vulnerable Harry Reid for the U.S. Senate, Sue Lowden, inspired a wave of giant chicken sightings after she opined that perhaps citizens should be able to barter for medical care, paying doctors, for example, with chickens. Now wags in chicken suits are clogging her rallies to mock her, and Democrats have launched a “Chickens for Check-ups” website. Continue reading

Don’t Apologize for the Truth, Mr. President.

For the second time in less than  a year, Nevada officials are annoyed with President Obama for a remark he has made about Las Vegas–essentially the same remark, in fact, he delivered before.

Speaking in New Hampshire about budget austerity, the President said, “You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It’s time your government did the same.”

The mayor of Las Vegas is demanding an apology. True, in tough economic times, the President should refrain from specifically discouraging tourism to a particular location. Continue reading

The Casinos and the Whale

Japanese tycoon Terrance Watanabe gambled away nearly $127 million at the Caesar’s Palace and Rio casinos in 2007, and now is suing the casinos even as he faces criminal charges for refusing to pay them over $15 million in additional debts. He claims that the gambling establishments allowed him to gamble while intoxicated in violation of state casino regulations, and otherwise share blame for his outlandish losses, believed to be the most any gambler has amassed in a single year. Continue reading